Cheering news comes from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) today, as the figures for the last quarter of 2004 show the market for farmland performing extremely well, with prices in 2004 rising by 25%, compared with just 7% in 2003, the largest increase since 1994.

The 4th quarter of last year also saw an increase in farmers moving back into the market as the framework for subsidies in the future became clearer.

Market conditions tend to be strongest for commercial farms showing a build up of interest from farmers encouraged by a higher income and a greater certainty over CAP reform, the Institute found.

It also said that the share of purchases by lifestyle buyers, which did rise considerably last year, declined. They now account for 41% of the market, compared with a high of 51% last year.

RICS Rural Spokesman, Julian Sayers, said: ?Despite the further decline of farmland availability, supply conditions are expected to improve as the implications of the Single Farm Payment are clarified.

?Both increased caution from non-farmer buyers and expectations for better availability in 2005 have led surveyors to believe that commercial and residential farmland property prices will flatten out over the coming year.?